X Ambassadors + Grizfolk @ Olympia – November 29th 2015

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I approach the Olympia Theatre a good half hour before the show, there is a line-up wrapped around the block. Just think, in April of 2014, X Ambassadors played a sold out Petit Campus show that accommodates 300 people and now a sold out venue that added at least 1000 more fans. This crowd was leaning heavily on the oestrogen side, as the great majority of the venue was filled with young girls ready to dance. Luckily for us, the X Ambassadors and Grizfolk balanced us all out with an intense night of testosterone.

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Grizfolk started the evening in the packed theatre with a very high level of energy and great stage presence. I was amazed at how the crowd reacted to an opening band, like they were headlining. Right from the get go, the crowd started clapping along to “Waiting For You” off their “Waking Up The Giants” album. Opening band + first song + audience participation… wow! The whole theatre was getting into the next songs such as “Into the Barrens” and “The Struggle”.

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Grizfolk had been on tour with the X Ambassadors for the last two weeks and this was to be their last show with them. The next song they said was about travel and the cool places they get to visit, which of course Montreal was highlighted before going into “Vagabonds”.

During one of the newer songs, “Troublemaker”, Adam Roth met with the crowd to sing a portion up close and personal. “Money Trees” was next and the crowd sang along to “The Ripple” before they ended the set with “Hymnals”.

I don’t think X Ambassadors could have picked a better band to warm up the crowd then Grizfolk, who could easily return to Montreal to headline their own show. I was actually wondering how the XA would top that performance, but I would soon find out.

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Grizfolk Set List

Waiting for You
Into the Barrens
The Struggle
Vagabonds
Bounty on my Head
Cosmic Angels
Troublemaker
Money Trees
The Ripple
Hymnals

As we all wait for the XA, some bass heavy Kanye is pumped through the PA.

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Finally, that moment arrives when the PA goes silent and the lights dim. The crowd cheers the arrival of Sam Harris, his brother Casey Harris, their kindergarten friend Noah Feldshuh and university buddy Adam Levin (not to be confused with the tattooed heartthrob who is only one letter away from this drummer). I would soon find out that seeing the X Ambassadors live is like watching an intense spinning class, just swap the stationary bikes for instruments. Sam, who must be related to the Energizer Bunny, is a force to be reckoned with onstage. I haven’t seen a keyboard player rock the keys like Casey since I caught Wolfmother at the Le National in 2006.

They kicked it off with “Loveless”, a song from the “VHS” album which most of tonight’s songs will be taken from. Many of the sounds of the interludes on the album were from actual VHS family home videos, so the band felt that nostalgia would translate well as the title of the album.

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After “Hang On”, we are treated to the title track of the “Love Songs Drug Songs” EP, that Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons fame helped them record and later took under their wing as an opening act for their tour. Fast forward to a Jeep “Renegades” commercial which brought even more attention to that breakthrough song which peaked at #17 on Billboard Hot 100 chart, but #1 on the Rock Billboard Canadian chart. Obviously, Canada has a deeper appreciation of the band and it shows tonight.

The band’s wish on “B.I.G.” of “I’m gonna go big… bigger than I was before” is happening before our very eyes. A sold out show and an upcoming show with Muse at the Bell Centre reminds us that even bigger things are ahead of them.

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The crowd readily sang along to “Unsteady”, a heartfelt song about the divorce of Sam & Casey’s parents.

Both “Low Life” and a little later “Jungle” would be played without Jamie N Commons which adds some blues influence to both tracks on the album.

The next song was inspired by “freedom”, Sam mentions, and one of the funniest moments of the night was to to be uncovered… literally. During “Naked”, the members of Grizfolk joined the band onstage wearing nothing but their stylish tidy whities, much to the appreciation of the female gender in the crowd. This playfulness really summed up the mood of the night… a fun evening where both bands were able to just have fun and enjoy the moment.

Next up was the hat trick of “Gorgeous”, “Renegades” and “Jungle” to end the set with a nuclear amount of energy that was infectious.

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The evening ended with an encore that featured the older song, “Unconsolable”, and finally “Superpower”. If I was to guess the superpower of X Ambassadors, it would be Power Augmentation – the ability to augment powers of others. It felt like they took the communal energy from the crowd, internalized it and released it in a 3-4 minute bursts encapsulated in song.

The night ended with Sam taking the last copy of the set list and slowly creating a paper airplane that would soon land in the hands of a very happy fan.

Grizfolk made themselves available for pictures at the back of the venue as the crowd slowly streamed back out into the cold night.

My tip: Get there early for Muse so you can catch the energy of X Ambassadors as they grace our town with another visit. Until then… stay warm.

X Ambassadors Set List
Loveless
Hang On
Love Songs Drug Songs
B.I.G.
Unsteady
Low Life
Naked
Gorgeous
Renegades
Jungle

Encore
Unconsolable
Superpower

Review – Randal Wark
Photos – Kieron Yates

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